Every few months we feature one of the pioneers that make up the ThirdPath community . . .
Andrea Knowles was clear early on that she wanted to live a life that included time for both work and family. To accomplish this, fresh out of law school, she began taking the steps she believed would most likely help her achieve this goal.
Andrea began her journey by securing a position at a large law firm. While there, her goals were to work hard, gain experience and respect, and to save as much money as possible so she would have more financial freedom later on.
Unlike some of the other newly hired lawyers at the firm, Andrea lived well below what she earned as an attorney and put all her extra savings towards paying off her student loan. Once debt free, she then kept up this modest lifestyle in order to build a nest egg that would fund a year off and let her travel and see the world. After working long hours at the large firm, she needed this time to relax and breath. She also knew taking this time would play a crucial role in her ability to search for the ideal firm that would support her longer term goals.
During her year off Andrea traveled and spent time with friends and family. She even met her future husband. After about 6 months, she began looking for a new place to work. While being interviewed at each law firm she was very open about wanting an integrated life, and she looked for firms where people were already living this way. Did people have children? Was life outside of work important to them? Could people work reduced hours? To really understand the culture of the firm, she also looked very carefully at the leaders. Were some of them role models for the type of life she was looking for?
Ultimately, she turned down opportunities where an integrated approach was not encouraged or otherwise feasible, and eventually she found her current firm – a litigation boutique that felt very aligned with her vision.
When she began working at her new firm, Andrea worked full time. She also got engaged, married, and then began looking for a house with her husband. While doing this she saw it as another opportunity to think ahead about their future goals. For example, she advocated for a house that would support a short commute. She also knew the importance of finding an affordable house so they could cover other important expenses like the cost of day care and her goal to work reduced hours when they started a family. Soon after this was all put in place, they got pregnant. In fact, they learned they were going to have two children not just one!
After the birth of the twins, Andrea began experimenting with working flexibly and reduced hours. The benefits of a reduced schedule allowed Andrea to take off most Fridays for almost 2 years. She then had a year where one of her twins required numerous doctor’s appointments, so instead of taking Fridays off, she used the company’s flexibility to work half days to attend the appointments. When the twins were in preschool, she continued with an 80% schedule and flexed her hours for different family responsibilities, including helping out at their children’s co-operative pre-school. When the twins entered first grade, Andrea went back to full time hours, though she continues to flex her hours as needed for family responsibilities.
Andrea’s determination to live out her dream of having an integrated work life informed her decisions early on. She made financial decisions that allowed her to live debt free and save up the funds necessary to hunt for a firm that embodied her vision of work life balance. Many of her fellow employees and leaders have families and work flexibly themselves. She also sought out a life partner whose goals for work and family were similar. And she took time to interview prospective employers until she found a good fit.
What are your goals for an integrated work life? What steps have you taken, or do you need to take, in order to get closer to your dreams? Listen to our full interview with Andrea and be inspired by a story that will help you think about how all the different pieces – work, money, partner and family – can fit together to support an integrated whole.